HC Deb 23 October 1961 vol 646 cc539-40
13. Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the steps he has taken to obtain cheaper drugs from abroad.

Mr. Powell

Contracts have now been placed in accordance with my reply of 17th May to my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) for the supply of five drugs for the hospital service. I estimate the total saving, before payment of royalties, at about Li million in a full year.

Mr. Lipton

That reply is satisfactory as far as it goes, but does not the Minister know that the drug bill is running at the rate of about £14 million a year? As further savings could be made in this very important respect by bringing down the price of many of these drugs which are at present being overcharged, has he met with the friendly co-operation of those of his hon. Friends who are directors of drug companies, whose prices are a little higher than they need be?

Mr. Powell

I know that my hon. Friends and I believe that the whole House supports me in my desire to get drugs for the National Health Service on the best terms that I can.

Lord Balniel

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in spite of the criticism of the hon. Gentleman, there will be general support for his determination to ensure that the National Health Service does not pay more than world prices for the drugs it buys?

Mr. Powell indicated assent.

Mr. K. Robinson

I appreciate that the Minister cannot be as forthcoming as he might be as he is about to be sued by one of the drug manufacturing companies, but will he say whether so far he is satisfied with the outcome of this experiment?

Mr. Powell

I have told the House that it has been found possible to place these contracts, and there is no question about the quality of the articles which are being obtained at advantageous prices. In due course royalties will either be negotiated or adjudicated.